iconimg Monday, July 06, 2015

Pravin Thipsay
Chennai, November 14, 2013
It began with a lot of excitement and ended in an exhausting six-hour draw. But what a battle!

Anand was close to victory on Tuesday and has been dominating the contest so far. Knowing Carlsen's style and policy of thriving mainly on opponent's mistakes rather than own creativity, Anand has been deliberately opting for strategically complex but tactically simple positions.

However, one can't overlook the fact that Anand's strength lies in his accurate attack against the king and Carlsen has been avoiding such situations with practical decisions time and again.

Anand began with his favourite King Pawn Opening which Carlsen countered by advancing his own king-pawn; a ploy he has successfully used against the champion in most of their recent encounters.

Knowing that Anand was going to try some variations with kingside attack, Carlsen prudently chose the Berlin Defence successfully deployed  by  top GMs when they do not mind a draw.

Standard opening moves quickly led to a theoretical ending which has been tried in thousands of important games. On move 17, Anand played a novelty which gave him slight positional advantage due to better pawn structure. Apparently, Anand had found an interesting way of placing his knights at optimal squares, thereby maintaining pressure.

The game suddenly took an interesting turn when Anand sacrificed a pawn on the 18th, making it clear that he was going to try to win in his own style rather than the conventional positional way.

Carlsen took a long time and decided to boldly take the pawn though it offered extremely dangerous possibilities to the champion. With some brilliant bishop moves, Carlsen was able to defend all his weaknesses.

A complicated queenless middlegame followed where  Carlsen found a number of superb moves and eventually neutralised Anand's initiative while keeping an extra pawn. Anand had to sacrifice another pawn on move 35 to keep his initiative.

The position could have been difficult for Anand had Carlsen continued to find the best moves but faltered on the 36th. Had he brought his queenside rook in play, the position could be dangerous for Anand.

The play thereafter was straightforward and took almost a forced course. With a simple but effective knight retreat on the 38th, Anand recovered one of the pawns and succeeded in simplifying the position to a theoretical draw. The young challenger carried on till move 64, hoping the champion makes a blunder. He didn't.

The writer is India's third GM and has been playing chess for 42 years